Commemorating the first anniversary of Issey Miyake’s largest Southeast Asian flagship store at Siam Discovery, the head designer of the brand’s womenswear line, Yoshiyuki Miyamae, paid Bangkok a visit last month to personally introduce the Autumn-Winter 2017 collection. Titled “Chromatic Fantasia”, the collection is robust wave of saturated colors, inspired by the breathtaking auroras of Norway, which Miyamae says he was lucky enough to catch sight of during a tiny excursion after his Paris show last October.
“I often find my inspiration from nature because the beauty found in nature is beyond the capacity of humans to invent,” says the 41-year-old designer.
Along with colourful, flowy outfits, the new collection features the brand’s latest breakthrough in making its signature pleats: steam stretch. In our interview with the Tokyo-born and raised designer, Miyamae explains the technology, which took three years to develop, by showing us a short video of the cutting-edge process on his iPad. Steam is applied onto a seemingly untampered large piece of fabric and suddenly it not only shrinks to less than half its size, but into the shape of a finished a-line dress. True Japanese fashion sorcery.
As Miyamae proceeds to tell us that computer programming is used to map the precise formulations of the pleats on the cloth upon heat activation, we feel like we’ve been transported to the future. How does one even visualise the final silhouette from a single piece of raw material without ever cutting it up and moulding it onto a mannequin?
“You have to work with both images in mind, the end results and its starting form,” says Miyamae, “It’s not easy.” FYI.
This begins a comparison between Western and Eastern—particularly Japanese— design practises. Whereas European fashion traditionally begins at a three-dimensional bodice, Miyamae explains, the Japanese design aesthetic has always been grounded on two-dimensional surfaces. Kimonos are essentially large sheets of cloth, draped and layered smoothly over the wearer. Even origami, an iconic design heritage of Japan, starts with a flat, square piece of paper that is uncut in its transformation into a three-dimensional shape.
Much in the same manner the paper crane has captivated us for generation after generation, Issey Miyake’s clothing, over the brand’s 40-year history, has astounded the fashion and consumer worlds with its trademark “one piece of cloth” concept and minimalism.
“Simple is the most difficult,” expresses Miyamae. “Addition, adornment and embellishment - that’s all easy to do. But making something that’s elementally impactful, that is hard and a telling sign of Issey Miyake's strength as a designer.”
This is essentially what drew Miyamae to the globally-renowned Japanese fashion house he has now been a part of for 16 years. Miyamae started designing from a very early age. Anything he wanted to have as a child, he created himself and his teenage years were when his interest in clothing and fashion began to flourish.
“I had my favorite brands and clothing that I thought were cool, but I couldn’t buy them because there were all expensive. So, I started making my own clothes.”
As a university student, Miyamae had the opportunity to watch an Issey Miyake show in Tokyo for the first time. “I was so inspired,” he recalls passionately. Seeing models in pleats jump around and dance down the runway and how the clothes, rather than hinder, embrace and even facilitate the joyful attitude, a young Miyamae was enlightened:
“How does what we wear impact how we feel? When we wear bright colours, we’re in a bright mood. When we feel tired, we don’t want to wear tight-fitting clothes. To me, this is the power of clothes and receiving this from observing Issey Miyake’s work, I am absolutely taken by the brand.”
“Simple is the most difficult. Addition, adornment and embellishment - that’s all easy to do. But making something that’s elementally impactful, that is hard and a telling sign of Issey Miyake's strength as a designer.”
In the last six years as a head designer for the brand, Miyamae has been a major driving force of the innovations and successes that have led to Issey Miyake's increased overseas expansion. Yet, the accomplished designer remains humble when asked about his career highlights or proudest achievements:
“I’m proud anytime my team and I invent something new or solve a problem in our work. But every time we do that, a new problem arises and hence a new task for us as designer arises. It’s an infinite process and I want to keep innovating as long as I’m here.”
See the campaign video for "Chromatic Fantasia", Issey Miyake's autumn-winter collection, below:
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